In my last post, I started to unpack hyperpigmentation or dark spots. I discussed what it is, exactly, and what your best options are for treating it on your own, as recommended by board-certified dermatologists. The surest way, however, to clear up the dark spots on your face will entail seeing your derm, because the range of in-office procedures are even more effective than the best at-home solutions. So, let’s get into them.
Lasers use a focused beam of light to break up and eliminate clusters of pigment in the skin. Which type is right for you? Your dermatologist will take your skin tone into consideration when making that decision because some lasers, like the IPL (intense pulsed light), can create an unwanted inflammatory effect on the surrounding skin in darker or tanned skin.
Another consideration: cost. Lasers are the most effective treatment for dark spots, but they can also be the most expensive. And you’ll need to anticipate several treatments with three to four weeks in between.
For the budget-conscious, an exfoliating treatment may be a more attractive option. A chemical peel removes the upper layers of dull, dead skin, gradually giving skin a more vibrant appearance. Beneath the surface, a peel can stimulate collagen production, enhance cellular turnover, and reduce the appearance of dark spots.
Chemical peels are not one-size-fits-all. Milder peels require little, if any, recovery time. For the best results, you may need between three to six peels spaced out by three to four weeks. A deeper peel may require only one to two treatments, but it will also entail a longer recovery period. For comparison, at-home peels may slough off dead skin, but they can’t go deep enough to lighten dark spots.
Microdermabrasion is another type of exfoliating treatment. It uses tiny particles to essentially sand away dead skin. Because it doesn’t destroy the skin tissue, the recovery time is minimal. For the same reason, though, the results tend not to be quite as dramatic as they are for the above treatments. Accordingly, microdermabrasion is best for milder hyperpigmentation. Expect between three to six treatments spaced out by two to four weeks.
A device covered with hundreds of tiny needles creates micro-injuries in the skin with the intention of spurring collagen production. (It sounds worse than it is.) While at-home versions are widely available, the treatment’s effectiveness comes down to the needles’ level of penetration. So you’re better off leaving it to a dermatologist.
Microneedling has a host of rejuvenating effects. Where dark spots are concerned, it’s often combined with topical treatments. Once the skin barrier is opened, ingredients known to lighten the skin, like vitamin C, are infused. You’ll see a brighter complexion within a week of the treatment, but you may need a couple of treatments with six weeks in between them for the best results.